Electoral reform could help the ANC
Aproposal for the ANC to adopt direct, constituency-based national and provincial elections has been placed on the table. This is part of the preparations of a pressure group comprising ANC stalwarts and veterans for the party’s upcoming consultative conference, where they will present turnaround proposals. At present, Luthuli House – instead of ANC voters – has the final say on who becomes a member of Parliament (MP) and “this is the root cause of the current rot destroying the country and ANC”, said Omry Makgoale, a member of the group of stalwarts and veterans and the author of a discussion document on electoral reform, dated December last year.
The document proposes that voters elect MPs directly instead of the party appointing its preferred candidates.
It retains the process of branch nominations, but seeks to do away with the subsequent influence of the provincial leaders, as well as Luthuli House.
The ANC’s current list process includes branch general meetings where members nominate candidates for National Assembly, as well as provincial legislatures. The candidate selection process then proceeds to the provincial list conference and a final decision is taken at the national list conference.
This week, the party announced that it would do away with provincial consolidation of lists.
“The ANC is in ICU and it cannot clean itself. It can only recover with the help of the nation’s voters through electoral reform,” said Makgoale, adding that he hoped the topic would be on the agenda at the policy conference and ultimately the national conference in December.
“Once the MPs are elected directly by the public, the ANC branches will fine-tune themselves to nominate trustworthy candidates for Parliament. In this way, the branch leaders will gradually be cleansed.”
According to Makgoale, “real power to select and deselect candidates will bring life into the branches from the bottom up, Electoral reform proposals principled members will join the branches and there will be a flowering of ANC democracy”.
He added that in this way, “the tenderpreneurs and careerists will be challenged, and got rid of”.
Makgoale said that, currently, “most ANC leaders are not held individually accountable and are not held responsible for their actions either. Everybody does what he or she likes, never mind the consequences to the ANC or the country. This is a terrible state of affairs.
“The current electoral laws do not require or enforce individual accountability; as long as the headquarters is satisfied, never mind the Constitution.”
He said the party’s headquarters demanded accountability from its members, “not the other way round”.
In his view, this is a “firm democratic centralism structure – the centre is firmly in control and in charge. The centre is de facto a law unto itself. What is perceived as right by the centre becomes law. The looting of state assets administered by the party headquarters is being protected by police and the prosecution authorities.”
He said MPs were employed by the centre and they had to be loyal to the party headquarters at all times, otherwise they would be redeployed. “The centre deploys those who are loyal and discards those who are disloyal,” he said.
In his view, “loyalty should be to the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa and the founding principles of the ANC”.
Party headquarters, by contrast, believed loyalty to the ANC leadership was “more important than the Constitution, no matter what its faults”.
This is because under electoral law, in Makgoale’s view, the elective conference selects the party list, and the party list provides the ANC’s MPs, with no accountability to any branch or any community of voters.
“ANC branches have no control, while voters must vote for a nameless herd instead of a trusted individual whom they can remove at the next election, while the herd obeys only the stick in the hands of Luthuli House.” Makgoale describes this as “profoundly undemocratic”. He said ANC structures needed to discuss measures on how best to combine the need for representivity with the need for individual accountability of elected politicians.
This could only be achieved by increasing the role of ward or constituency elections.
“As a minimum, we must adopt the current municipal electoral laws, to apply also for the province and national Parliament,” he said.
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